Court Dismisses Verizon, Metro PCS Suits Against FCC’s Web Rules

For mobile users of color, there's good and bad news when it comes to recent efforts to squash net neutrality rules.

By Jamilah King Apr 05, 2011

The Federal Communications Commission’s net neutrality rules are still under attack. Both telecommunications companies and House Republicans are working hard to overturn an order the commission enacted in December that require Internet providers to treat all traffic equally — rules that have could have serious implications for growing numbers of mobile Web users of color who depend on an unregulated industry to help close the digital divide.

First, the good news: Overturning the FCC’s net neutrality order won’t be easy. That much became clear on Monday after a DC federal appeals court threw out complaints filed against the FCC by Verizon and Metro PCS. The two companies had each filed separate lawsuits earlier this year accusing the commission of overstepping its regulatory authority by implementing the new rules. Cecilia Kang at the Washington Post points out that the court’s decision to dismiss the lawsuits was based on a technicality. Namely, both companies jumped the the gun because the rules have not yet been published in the Federal Register, and aren’t expected to go into effect until late May or early June.

"The Commission’s policy preserves Internet freedom and openness and strikes the right balance for consumers and businesses across America," FCC spokesperson Robert Kenny told reporters.

And there’s more. Aside from Monday’s court ruling, open web advocates also got reassurance from the White House that the administration would stick by its sometimes wavering commitment to an open Internet. Politico reported on Tuesday morning that House Republicans are moving closer to bringing an effort to repeal the rules to a full-chamber vote. But the administration reiterated its support. "If the President is presented with a Resolution of Disapproval that would not safeguard the free and open Internet, his senior advisers would recommend that he veto the Resolution," the statement read.

Rep. Anna Eshoo of California told Politico that she doubted whether the resolution would even get that far. "The majority doesn’t have a case" on this bill, she told Politico. An identical resolution is reportedly also pending in the Senate, but also isn’t expected to get very far.

Now, for the not so good news: Recent history may be on Verizon’s side. Monday’s decision came from the same court that ruled against the FCC last year, arguing that the commission didn’t have the authority to regulate telcommunications companies — a legal loophole that’s leftover from the Bush administration’s love affair with deregulation. That decision set off the fierce nine-month battle that preceded the FCC’s December net neutrality order. Even after the order was passed, open Web advocates loudly criticized the FCC’s rules for not regulating mobile broadband and doing little to put the agency on firmer legal footing.

Verizon, a company that’s gone to some very dubious extremes to make its case against regulation, has already pledged to move forward with another suit against the FCC. "We were unclear on timing and wanted to be sure we covered our bases," Verizon spokesperson Robert McFadden told the Post.